Simon Benoit seems to be loving his time in Toronto so far
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Simon Benoit endears himself to Leafs Nation with recent comments

Published February 1, 2024 at 1:29 PM

A couple of weeks before training camp, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed defenseman Simon Benoit to a 1-year, $775K deal for this season. Benoit was signed as a depth option for the Leafs on the blueline along with William Lagesson. Unfortunately for Benoit, he struggled at training camp due to an injury and began the season with the Toronto Marlies, something he acknowledged in a recent interview on former NHLer Luke Gadzic's "Mitts Off" podcast.

"I had an awful camp. I know Brad sent me down because of what he saw. I wasn't mad, I just didn't play good and they didn't know me. I just told myself I have to work harder. That game especially hurt me, three penalties like that when you are trying to show what you can do and you spend the period on the bench. My first thought (after being sent down) was getting my injury solved. I was battling with it throughout camp so I knew that the time in the minors would give me time to make sure I was fine. From there I was just going to put the work and see what happened from there."

Benoit spent the first two months of the season bouncing between the Leafs and Marlies, but since being called up on November 27th, he has been a mainstay on the backend. In 33 games with the Leafs, Benoit has endeared himself to Leaf fans with his simple, yet physical and hard-working style of play. The 25-year-old pending RFA has 2 points but has 92 hits and 51 blocks. While Benoit admitted to Gadzic that his game is simple, and that playing with the likes of Auston Matthews and William Nylander is special, he highlighted Calle Jarnkrok as the player that has surprised him the most since joining the Leafs.

"Jarnkrok," said Benoit. "Swiss army knife. He just does it all. He's so effective. Not oversized, just a good worker. Always smart with the puck offensively, in the d-zone, he's just smart and he gets put out there in every situation. He just does the job. He's the guy that surprised me this year."

Being a simple, stay-at-home defenseman, it is easy to see why Benoit appreciates the way Jarnkrok plays, but he will have to get used to life without him for now, as Jarnkrok is out for the next 3-4 weeks with a broken knuckle. The undrafted free agent has found a home on the back end with the Leafs and with how much GM Brad Treliving appreciates hard and gritty defenseman, Benoit has likely found a long-term home.

The lefty is currently paired with Jake McCabe on the second pair and with Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie becoming free agents in the off-season it would not be hard to see Benoit signing an extension with the blue and white. For now though, Benoit is just focusing on playing his game and continuing to endear himself to Leaf fans.

During the interview, Gazdic had brought up names like Darcy Tucker, Gary Roberts and Wendel Clark among others, and told Benoit that if he gave it everything he had in Toronto, the fans would adore him, even long after he's gone. Gazdic did acknowledge that with the way Benoit is playing now, he's well on his way to having the city of Toronto embrace him forever. Benoit's response was perfect.

"If the fans love me, I mean, it will touch my heart, you know. It's not every day that the fans love just like a simple stay-at-home D-man, you know. Usually the fans just love those skilled guys, but if they do love my game, you know, I'm touched by it and I'll just [keep doing it]. I'll stick to it. Bang the bodies."

The fans have appreciated what Benoit has brought to the table to this point. There aren't many stay-at-home defensemen who play as physical and as hard as Benoit does, so he's certainly been a breath of fresh air in Toronto. Hopefully, when his current deal expires this summer, Benoit and the Leafs can come to terms on a new deal that will see him remain a Leaf well beyond just next season.

February 1   |   1058 answers
Simon Benoit endears himself to Leafs Nation with recent comments

Would you be happy if the Leafs signed Simon Benoit to a reasonable extension?

Yes, I hope they bring him back99894.3 %
No, he's nothing special605.7 %
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